You are on page 1of 16

Archaeoastronomical Evidence for Wuism at the Hongshan Site of Niuheliang

By Sarah M. Nelson1, Rachel A. Matson2, Rachel M. Roberts1, Chris Rock2 and

Robert E. Stencel2

The Neolithic Hongshan Culture flourished between 4500 and 3000 BCE in what
is today northeastern China and Inner Mongolia (Figure 1). Village sites are found in the
northern part of the region, while the two ceremonial sites of Dongshanzui and
Niuheliang are located in the south, where villages are fewer (Li 2003). The Hongshan
inhabitants included agriculturalists who cultivated millet and pigs for subsistence, and
accomplished artisans who carved finely crafted jades and made thin black-on-red
pottery. Organized labor of a large number of workers is suggested by several impressive
constructions, including an artificial hill containing three rings of marble-like stone,
several high cairns with elaborate interiors and a 22 meter long building which contained
fragments of life-sized statues. One of the fragments was a face with inset green jade
eyes (Figure 2). A ranked society is implied by the special treatments accorded burials,
all of which include decorative jades made in specific, possibly iconographic, shapes. No
burials of non-elite have been found. It has been argued previously that the sizes and
locations of the mounded tombs imply at least three elite ranks (Nelson 1996).

The Nature of Leadership

Hongshan scholars agree that the elite burials are those of leaders, but the nature
of that leadership still needs to be elucidated. We propose that the Chinese word wu is
appropriate to apply to the Hongshan leaders, and, following Tong (2002), we use the
term wuism to describe their shamanistic activities. We argue that this designation is
appropriate for the Hongshan culture (Pak, et al. 2004).
Shamanism, ritual and magic are just beginning to be identified in archaeological
sites. Ralph Merrifield defines ritual and magic as “practices intended to gain advantage
or avert disaster by the manipulation of supernatural power” (1987:xii). Neil Price is
particularly helpful in describing the kinds of material culture found in shamanistic
contexts (2001:3). Notably, figurines found on the chests of shamans in Siberia (Devlet
2001:52) are similar to some finds in Hongshan burials.
Julia Ching (1997), in advancing her thesis that high leadership is related to
mysticism, begins her exploration in the Chinese Neolithic. K. C. Chang (e.g. 1983,
1994) has been a strong advocate of the interpretation of shamanistic leadership in China.
Likely shamanistic connections with specific artifacts have also been proposed (Childs-
Johnson 1988). In addition, several archaeologists at a recent Chinese conference argued
specifically that the Hongshan leaders were wu (Pak, et al. 2004; Yang 2004).
While there are no written documents from this period in Chinese history, the
presence and influence of wu in the Hongshan culture may be interpreted by projecting
backwards from documents known in later periods in China. China’s earliest extant
writing comes from the Shang dynasty, created by carving Chinese characters into bone
with a sharp instrument. The character for wu (meaning a person who can reach the

Department of Anthropology, University of Denver, Denver, Colorado, USA
Department of Physics and Astronomy, University of Denver, Denver, Colorado, USA

Powers) first appears in these Shang oracle bones, but it is not until the early Zhou
dynasty (ca. 1050-221 BCE) that the activities of the wu were recorded. As described in
the Zhou Li, the wu were responsible for divination, medicine and healing, music,
dancing and star-gazing (Falkenhausen 1995). By engaging in rhythmic drumming and
dancing, wu were able to go into trance and transcend the earthly realm in order to
communicate with the celestial spirit world (Tong 2002:35).

We focus here on astronomical observations in particular because “the main
purpose of Chinese astronomy was to study the correlation between [humanity] and [the]
universe” (Sun 2000:425). Chinese astronomy is known to date back to the Neolithic,
and it has continuously involved relationships between human beings, especially the
leaders, and phenomena in the skies (Pankenier 2000). By creating calendars and
observing the apparent movements of the heavenly bodies, leaders such as wu correlated
occurrences in the sky with events on earth.
Archaeoastronomy provides a useful interdisciplinary framework for examining
the connection between wuism and astronomy in Neolithic China. By combining
knowledge of the Hongshan culture with new research on the night sky of the region
more than 5000 years ago, archaeoastronomy reflects the terrestrial-celestial ideology we
wish to examine. Thus, by presenting both archaeological and astronomical lines of
evidence, we propose that the wu were actively creating a connection between heaven
and earth at the Hongshan site of Niuheliang (Figure 3).

Archaeological Evidence
Shamanistic activity is implied by much of the archaeological evidence at
Niuheliang. Similarly, archaeological continuities between the Hongshan and later
cultures point to the presence of wu in Neolithic northeast China. Oracle bones without
writing were used by cultures contemporaneous with the Hongshan suggesting that they
may have practiced a similar form of divination long before the Shang (Keightley 1978).
In the first century BCE, the Zhou Bi Suan Jing outlined the gai tian cosmography in
which the earth was square, covered by a round heaven (Cullen 1996). The presence of
both round and square structures at Hongshan ceremonial centers suggests that this
cosmological model was present in Chinese society long before it was written down in
the version extant today.

While jade is found even in the earliest Neolithic sites in northeast China, it is
only with the appearance of the Hongshan culture that jade is clearly used in ritual
activities (Teng 1997). The relationship between jade and both royalty and religion is
well established in China (Laufer 1974). For example, a burial at Locality 5 contained a
large cloud-shaped pendant, several squared rings and two Jade turtles (Figure 4). The
number and quality of the jade ornaments probably reflected the elite status of the
individual, but in addition they suggest wuist activities. Wu often acted as healers and
physicians (Tong 2002:48-49) and the qi (spirit or power) that jade was believed to
possess made it a potent medicinal substance. The wu also used their skills as dancers
and musicians to perform rain ceremonies during periods of drought (Ching 1997). The

cloud-shaped jade that was found with the individual at Locality 5 may imply rain-
making rituals, and indeed many of the shapes of Hongshan jades could be interpreted as
being associated with water (Nelson 1991). The turtle and ring-shaped jades excavated at
the site may reflect Chinese cosmology, another area of specialization for the wu: the two
“square” rings with circular holes reflect the gai tian cosmography while the turtles may
represent the cosmic tortoise which was believed to hold up the sky (Allan 1991).
A recently discovered jade in an elite burial at Locality 16 of Niuheliang also
suggests connections with the later wu (Guo 1997, 2004). A large jade bird was found
under the skull of a burial (Figure 5), suggesting a connection between the deceased and
sacred birds as messengers of Powers (Keightley 2000). Birds were prominent in Shang
dynasty (ca. 1500-1050 BCE) mythology (Allan 1991), and those beliefs are likely to
have been of considerable age by the time of the Shang.

Several fragments of large, unbaked clay statues were excavated at Locality 1
(commonly referred to as the Goddess Temple) including a face with jade eyes (Figure
2), as well as a shoulder and breast that imply the statue is female. Small female figurines
were excavated from Dongshanzui, as well as a seated statue wearing a knotted rope
around the waist. Some fragments imply that statues at Niuheliang were larger than life-
sized (Guo 2003). Certainly the ceremonial nature of the Goddess Temple and the size of
the figures suggest that these statues served a ritual function, a function that was most
likely realized by religious specialists such as wu.
As the name of the site suggests, the statues unearthed at the Goddess Temple
were interpreted by the excavators as representations of female deities (Sun and Guo
1984). However, an alternate interpretation may be explored. While the term wu often
refers to all early Chinese shamans regardless of gender, it was originally used to
describe female shamans exclusively (Ching 1997:15, Tong 2002:34). Also, because of
the belief of the great medicinal potency of jade, some scholars have proposed that “jade-
working was monopolized by shamans” (Teng 1997:10). Thus, it is possible that the clay
face with jade eyes from the Goddess Temple is a portrait of a female wu.

Painted Pottery
Most of the Niuheliang tombs are surrounded by broken pottery cylinders (Figure
6), which once stood next to each other in rows near the outer edges of the tombs. Guo
Dashun (1995) estimated that if all the mounded burials known at Niuheliang were
surrounded by rows of these jars, 10,000 of them must have been made. Because these
cylinders were open at both ends they were clearly not used as containers. Hongshan
painted pottery has been found in ritual contexts, suggesting that painted pottery was
produced primarily for ceremonial purposes. Therefore we may infer that there was a
highly productive ceramics industry in or near Niuheliang that was dedicated to the
creation of ceremonial pottery.
The true function of these cylinders continues to be debated but we pose a feasible
interpretation. According to Tong Enzheng, pottery drums were integral to wuist
activities and were “specially manufactured for the deceased to enable them to
communicate with the spiritual world” (Tong 2002:35). The pottery cylinders found in
the square tomb at Locality 2 could have been used as drums by stretching hides over the

open ends. Hence, the painted pottery sherds and cylinders found throughout the site
provide another suggestion that wu were present and active at Niuheliang.

Some of the most intriguing archaeological evidence for wuism at Niuheliang
comes from the site’s architectural structures, including the Goddess Temple (Locality 1).
The distinctive outline of the Temple (Figure 7) may be interpreted as a ya, a cruciform
shape which has significance in Chinese cosmography. The ya was a representation of
the five cardinal directions: north, south, east, west and center. Similarly, according to
Chinese mythology, the sky was supported above the earth by a cosmic turtle whose
lower shell, or plastron, was ya-shaped (Allan 1991). If the Goddess Temple was indeed
an early representation of a ya-shaped cosmos, then its architecture may have been an
attempt to create a representation of heaven on earth, or to symbolize the connection
between earth and heaven. Because one of the primary duties of wu was to connect the
terrestrial and the celestial, this cosmic architecture may be evidence for the powerful
influence of the wu at Niuheliang.
The placement of tombs at Niuheliang also suggests the influence of wu. All but
one of the tomb groups at the site are positioned on top of prominent hills with excellent
views of the entire Niuheliang area. These vantage points offer a better view of the night
sky and would have been prime spots for star-gazing. By placing the tombs on hills the
Hongshan placed the deceased in closer proximity to the heavens and, thus, in closer
proximity to the realm of the ancestors. Hence, the influence of wu as facilitators of a
terrestrial-celestial association may have shaped architecture and tomb construction at
Perhaps the best architectural evidence for wuism at Niuheliang are the round and
square structures found throughout the site. Because ancient Chinese lore described a
round heaven which enveloped a square earth, these structures may have been
representations of the celestial and terrestrial realms. While circular rings of white stones
are found in several localities, the most compelling evidence for the architectural
representation of the gai tian cosmography is found at Locality 2. Here, tombs that are
both square and circular in ground plan lie side by side with other structures without
burials that have been interpreted as altars. Perhaps these constructions were intended to
represent gai tian cosmography.
As a representation of both the celestial and the terrestrial, Locality 13 may have
served a ritual function. The earthen pyramid may have served as a locus of
transcendence, a platform from which wu would have been able to spiritually ascend to
the heavens and descend back down to earth (Tong 2002:34). In this way, the round and
square structures at Locality 2, and perhaps at other localities in the Niuheliang complex,
may have been the physical locations from which wu would have made the all important
connection between the terrestrial and the celestial.

Astronomical Evidence

Data Analysis
As has been argued for other Neolithic sites, data from Niuheliang reveals
possible astronomical alignments between localities which may be indicative of a

connection between the celestial and the terrestrial landscape during the Hongshan
period. To further examine these potential alignments, distances and angles between
localities must be determined from latitude, longitude and elevation values. In 2000,
Chris Rock used a handheld global positioning system (GPS) device to obtain these
values for the majority of the sixteen localities at Niuheliang including the Goddess
Temple (Locality 1a) and the Platform (Locality 1b). Table 1 displays these values with
the following exceptions:
In order to compensate for several outlying data points, the elevation for the
Goddess Temple (1a) was obtained by examining the nine data points collected with the
GPS device and averaging those with errors of less than 16 meters. Further exceptions
include the elevation values for Localities 8 and 9, as no GPS data was acquired at these
locations. To approximate the elevations, the old contour map and newer satellite image
of Niuheliang (Figure 8) were examined and compared to the elevation values of the
other localities. Locality 8 was determined to have an approximate elevation of 660
meters with an error of approximately ±30 meters, as it appears to be lower than the
Platform (1b) but similar in elevation to the Goddess Temple (1a). It is also similar to but
lower in elevation than Localities 6 and 7. The elevation for Locality 9 was
approximated as being higher than Localities 11, 12 and 13 since it is in the northeastern
most part of the valley and because elevation decreases to the west. Also, Locality 9
appears to be similar to Locality 2 in relation to the valley as well as elevation. Thus its
elevation is approximated as 647 ±20 meters. To obtain elevation as well as latitude and
longitude values for Locality 15 (which were absent from the data collected by Rock),
measurements made by Hungjen Niu and Yangjin Pak at the same time as Rock but using
a newer GPS unit were examined. Niu and Pak acquired two values for Locality 15 that
when averaged together resulted in coordinates of N41° 18.87, E119 ° 30.34 and an
elevation of 619±16 meters. Data for Locality 14 was absent from Rock’s GPS readings
as well as those of Niu and Pak and was therefore estimated from the satellite map and
the data from nearby Locality 15. The latitude (N41°18.97), longitude (E119°29.97) and
elevation (616±25 meters) for Locality 14 were approximated in this way.
The next steps in determining possible astronomical alignments are to determine
the differences in elevation between the localities and distances between localities. By
calculating the distances between the localities, a triangle can be formed between two
specific localities such that the base of the triangle is the distance between the localities
and the height of the triangle is the relative elevation between the localities. The first
step in calculating the distances between localities was to convert the latitude and
longitude values into their decimal form by dividing the minutes of latitude or longitude
by 60 and adding them to the degree value. The values were then converted to degrees
by dividing the decimal latitude or longitude by the ratio of 180 degrees for every pi
radians. However, in order to account for the curvature of the Earth, we must apply the
Haversine Approximation to these values:

dlon = lon2 - lon1

dlat = lat2 - lat1
a = (sin(dlat/2))^2 + cos(lat1) * cos(lat2) * sin(dlon/2))^2
d = R* 2 * atan2(sqrt(1-a), sqrt(a))

First, the decimal radian values for latitude and longitude were used to determine
the difference in latitude (dlat) and longitude (dlon) between localities. Second, these
dlat and dlon values were used to solve for the variable “a” using the formula above.
Finally, these resulting “a” values were used to solve for the variable “d” using the
second formula in the Haversine approximation in which R is the radius of the Earth
(6,367,000 meters). The corrected distance (d) and elevation can then be used as the base
and height, respectively, of the aforementioned triangle in order to determine the azimuth
angles between the localities by applying the formula: azimuth = atan2 (dlat, dlon). The
resulting azimuth angles were converted into degrees and subtracted from ninety so that
zero degrees corresponds to north rather than the x-axis in a Cartesian plane.
To determine the declination angles used to verify astronomical alignments, both
the azimuth and altitude angles are needed. Just as the azimuth angles were calculated
above, the next set of computations involved finding altitude angles. The altitude angles
between localities (Table 2) were determined by calculating the arctangent of the
difference in elevation and the distance between the localities. The angles were then
multiplied by the conversion factor of 57.3 degrees per radian, giving the angles in
The final calculations performed were to determine the sight lines corresponding
to declination angles in the sky. The declination angles were determined using the
formula: sin(DEC)= sin(LAT)sin(ALT)+cos(LAT)cos(ALT)cos(AZ), in which LAT
corresponds to the decimal latitude of each locality, ALT corresponds to the altitude
angles and AZ corresponds to the azimuth angles. Because this formula gives the sine of
the declination angles, the arcsine of the values was then calculated to obtain the
declination angles. The results were then multiplied by 57.3 so that the final angles were
given in degrees. Table 3 displays the resulting declination sight line angles.

To determine possible astronomical alignments between localities, the declination
angles were inspected for angles that correspond to significant points in the orbits of the
sun and moon because of their prominence in the sky as well as their usefulness in time
keeping. Significant solar angles occur when the sun is at its farthest point north (+23.5°)
or south (-23.5°), corresponding to the summer and winter solstices, and when the sun is
at the midpoint of its motion (0°), occurring at the spring and autumn equinoxes.
Because the moon’s motion varies from the sun’s, significant lunar angles are those five
degrees to either side of the aforementioned solar angles: 28.5°, 18.5°, 5°, -5°, -18.5° and
-28.5°. To account for the error within the calculations and variations in viewing
locations due to the size of the localities, declination angles within ±1.5 degrees of the
actual solar or lunar angles were considered for alignments. Table 4 highlights the
significant angles considered for further analysis.
Of the interesting angles, one set occurs between Locality 13 and Localities 8, 9
and 10. The angles between Locality 13 and Localities 8 and 9 are within our range of
lunar alignment angles, with Locality 8 having an angle of -19.63° and Locality 9 having
an angle of -28.53°. Besides yielding possible lunar alignments, these angles are also
potentially significant because of the prominence of Locality 13 which is an artificial hill
characterized as an earthen “pyramid.” Localities 8 and 9 are also considered likely for
alignment because although we do not have measured values for their elevations, we

know from visiting the site that they are situated on hills that are visible form Locality 13.
Locality 13 also forms a potentially significant solar angle of -24.73° with Locality 10.
This alignment seems plausible because Locality 10 is centrally located, is characterized
by a high concentration of ceramic debris and could have been seen from Locality 13.
Additionally, Locality 10 bisects Localities 8 and 9 suggesting a possible triple
Locality 13 also forms a lunar angle of -19.06° with Locality 2. In addition to the
aforementioned prominence of Locality 13, this alignment is also considered of interest
because Locality 2 contains a central square tomb whose inhabitants may have been
connected to wuism. Thus, the archaeological discoveries at Locality 2 as well as its
position directly south of the Goddess Temple suggest that it may have astronomical
Another set of potentially significant lunar angles are those between the Platform
(1b) and Localities 7 (18.92°) and 8 (-5.81°) which are both situated atop a high hill. The
Platform also produces a lunar angle of -28.20° with Locality 10 which, as previously
stated, is not very prominent but is near the center of the valley and has a large amount of
ceramic debris.
Further declination angles of interest include those between Locality 16 and
Localities 7 and 9. Locality 7 forms a solar angle of -23.48° with Locality 16, and
Locality 9 a possible lunar angle of -20.64°. Locality 16 is considered potentially
significant because of the structural remains and jade artifacts excavated there and
because it affords a view of the entire site from the westernmost point in the region.
Localities 7 and 9 afford similar panoramic views from the northernmost and easternmost
parts of the Niuheliang complex, respectively.
Finally, Locality 6 creates a lunar angle of -6.21° with Locality 8. This alignment
may be significant because of the two Localities’ close proximity to the Goddess Temple
(1a) and the Platform area (1b), as well as nearby Localities 7 and 9. The position of
Locality 6 atop a hill also points towards possible astronomical significance.

The archaeological evidence at Niuheliang makes a strong argument for wuism in
Hongshan China. First, many of the jade shapes in burials suggest that thay might have
been symbols of the wu. Second, the discovery of anthropomorphic statuary and large
numbers of bottomless jars imply that ritual activity connected with wuism was taking
place at Niuheliang, and was particularly connected with the elite. Finally, the existence
of a ya-shaped temple, hilltop tombs and round and square structures suggest that wu
were actively involved in connecting heaven and earth at the site. Therefore, the nature
of the archaeological evidence argues that the societal leaders were wu and used their
influence with the Powers to create a celestial-terrestrial connection at Niuheliang.
From the calculations and analysis of the localities at Niuheliang, declination
angles corresponding to both significant solar and lunar angles as well as possessing
some distinguishing factor about their location or contents were analyzed to highlight
promising alignments between the heavens and the terrestrial landscape. Of the 136
possible angles studied among localities at Niuheliang, a striking number of lunar rather
than solar alignment angles emerged, and many of them took the artificial hill as their
backsight. Assuming the lunar orbit evolution is small since Hongshan times, an

integrative interpretation of the Niuheliang site plan relates it to the study of lunar motion
- stillstand to stillstand - and the cultural development of ability to predict eclipses based
thereupon. This is one implication of this preliminary astronomical alignment survey at


This paper began as an assignment in an Honors class in Archaeoastronomy at the

University of Denver in Winter Quarter 2004. We thank all of the students who
contributed to the project. Work at Niuheliang has been funded by grants to Sarah M.
Nelson and Guo Dashun by the Wenner-Gren Foundation for Anthropological Research
and to Sarah M. Nelson by the National Geographic Society Fund for Exploration.
Partial support for the Physics and Astronomy participation herein was provided by the
bequest of William Hershel Womble to the University of Denver.


ALLAN, S. 1991. The Shape of the Turtle: Myth, Art, and Cosmos in Early China.

Albany, NY: State University of New York Press.

CHANG, K. C. 1983. Art, Myth and Ritual: The Path to Political Authority in Ancient

China. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.

― 1994. Ritual and Power. In R. E. Murowchick (ed.), Cradles of Civilization: China: 6-

69. Norman, OK: University of Oklahoma Press.

CHILDS-JOHNSON, E. 1988. Dragons, Masks, Axes and Blades from Four Newly

Documented Jade-Producing Cultures of Ancient China. Orientations (April): 30-


―1991. Jades of the Hongshan Culture: The Dragon and Fertility Cult Worship. Arts

Asiatique 46: 82-95.

CHING, J. 1997. Mysticism and Kingship in China: The Heart of Chinese Wisdom.

Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

CULLEN, C. 1996. Astronomy and Mathematics in Ancient China: The Zhou bi suan jing.

Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

DEVLET, E. 2001. Rock Art and the Material Culture of Siberia and Central Asian

Shamanism. In N. Price (ed.), The Archaeology of Shamanism: 43-55. London:


FALKENHAUSEN, L. 1995. Reflections on the Political Role of Spirit Mediums in Early

China: The Wu Officials in the Zhou Li. Early China 20: 279-300.

FANG, D. and B. LIU 1984. Excavation of Jades from Tombs of the Hongshan Culture at

Hutougou, Fuxin County, Liaoning Province. Wenwu 1984(6): 1-6.

GAO, M. 1989. On Hongshan Burials. Beifang Wenwu 1989(1): 25-32.

GUO, D. 1995. Hongshan and Related Cultures. In S.M. Nelson (ed.), The Archaeology

of Northeast China: 21-64. London: Routledge.

―1997. Understanding the Ritual Burials of the Hongshan Culture through Jade. In R.

E. Scott (ed.), Chinese Jades. London: Percival David Foundation.

KEIGHTLEY, D. 1978. Sources of Shang History: The Oracle Bone Inscriptions of Bronze

Age China. Berkeley, CA: University of California Press.

―2000. The Ancestral Landscape: Time, Space and Community in Late Shang China.

Berkeley, CA: Institute of East Asian Studies.

LAUFER, B. 1974. Jade: A Study in Chinese Archaeology and Religion. New York: Dover

Publications, Inc.

LI, X. 2003. Development of Social Complexity in the Liaoxi Area, Northeast China.

Dissertation, La Trobe University, Bundoora, Victoria, Australia.

NELSON, S. M. 1995. Ritualized Pigs and the Origins of Complex Society: Hypotheses

Regarding the Hongshan Culture. Early China 20:1-16.

―1996. Ideology and the Formation of an Early State in Northeast China. In H. J. M.

Claessen and J. G. Oosten (eds.), Ideology and the Formation of Early States:

153-169. Leiden: Brill.

―2002. Performing Power in Early China: Examples from the Shang Dynasty and the

Hongshan Culture. In M. O’Donovan (ed.), The Dynamics of Power: 151-167.

Carbondale, IL: Center for Archaeological Investigations, Southern Illinois


PAK, Y., S.M. NELSON and H. NIU 2003. Leadership in the Hongshan Culture. Paper

delivered at the annual meeting of the Society for American Archaeology,


PANKENIER, D. W. 1995. Cosmo-Political Background of Heaven’s Mandate. Early China

20: 121-176.

PRICE, N. (ed.) 2001. The Archaeology of Shamanism. London: Routledge.

SUN, S. 1986. Niuheliang and the Hongshan Culture. Liaohai Wenwu Xuegan 1986 (1):


SUN, S. and D. GUO 1986. Discovery and Study of the Goddess Head of the Hongshan

Culture from Niuheliang. Wenwu 1986 (8): 7-10.

SUN, X. 2000. Crossing the Boundaries between Heaven and Man: Astronomy in Ancient

China. In H. Selin (ed.), Astronomy Across Cultures: The History of Non-

Western Astronomy: 423-454. London: Kluwer Academic Publishers.

TENG, S. 1997. A Theory of the Three Origins of Jade Culture in Ancient China. In R.E.

Scott (ed.), Chinese Jades: 9-26. London: Percival David Foundation.

TONG, E. 2002. Magicians, Magic, and Shamanism in Ancient China. Journal of East

Asian Archaeology 4.1(4): 26-67.

YANG, B. 2004. Concluding Remarks, International Chifeng Conference, Chifeng, Inner

Mongolia, China, July 2004.

Figure Captions

Figure 1. Map of Northeast China showing the

distribution of Hongshan sites throughout the
region. Niuheliang is circled.

Niuheliang Figure 1.jpg

Figure 2. Clay “mask” with inset jade eyes from
the Goddess Temple. The rounded facial features
suggest it is a representation of a female.

Niuheliang Figure 2.jpg

Figure 3. Map of Niuheliang and its numbered

Niuheliang Figure 3.jpg

Figure 4. Ring, cloud and turtle-shaped jades
from the tomb at Locality 5.

Niuheliang Figure 4.jpg

Figure 5. Jade bird found under the skull of an
individual buried at Locality 16

Niuheliang Figure 5.jpg

Figure 6. One of the many black-on-red pottery
cylinders excavated at Locality 2 and other tombs
throughout Niuheliang.

Niuheliang Figure 6.jpg

Figure 7. The Goddess Temple (Locality 1) as it
appeared after preliminary excavation.

Niuheliang Figure 7.jpg

Figure 8. Satellite image of Niuheliang
superimposed over a contour map of the site.

Niuheliang Figure 8.jpg


Table 1. Latitude, longitude and elevation values for Niuheliang from the 2000 GPS

Locality Latitude Longitude Elevation EPE (±)

1a N 41°19.798 E119°30.834 661 14
1b N 41°19.857 E119°30.834 676 12
2 N 41°19.310 E119°30.781 644 11
3 N 41°19.215 E119°30.821 648 12
4 N 41°19.039 E119°30.478 628 13
5 N 41°19.005 E119°30.257 639 12
6 N 41°19.940 E119°30.359 687 15
7 N 41°20.088 E119°30.385 698 13
8 N 41°19.747 E119°31.567 660 30
9 N 41°20.197 E119°31.084 647 20
10 N 41°19.038 E119°29.898 610 14
11 N 41°18.939 E119°29.267 604 17
12 N 41°18.762 E119°29.187 615 14
13 N 41°18.384 E119°28.961 579 15
14 N 41°18.97 E119°29.97 616 25
15 N 41°18.87 E119°30.34 619 16
16 N 41°18.541 E119°28.078 569 13

Table 2. Altitude angles [degrees above horizontal] between localities. Entries in the upper half of this and the following tables are
blank because they are redundant with the lower set of values.

Locality 1a 1b 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16
1a 0
1b -7.816 0
2 1.074 1.804 0
3 0.6897 1.349 -1.242 0
4 1.2684 1.725 1.398 1.9824 0
5 0.7531 1.197 0.311 0.5889 -2.008 0
6 -2.094 -0.929 -1.886 -1.501 -2.015 -1.582 0
7 -2.572 -1.665 -2.005 -1.659 -2.059 -1.678 -2.28 0
8 0.056 0.882 -0.674 -0.481 -0.915 -0.527 0.901 1.236 0
9 0.9821 2.309 -0.101 0.0309 -0.472 -0.184 2.055 2.941 0.696 0
10 1.5237 1.891 1.467 1.6428 1.2782 3.299 2.464 2.447 1.074 0.783 0
11 1.2101 1.492 1.035 1.1349 0.8114 1.45 1.983 2.043 0.908 0.717 0.3834 0
12 0.8819 1.142 0.681 0.7804 0.3988 0.884 1.514 1.602 0.682 0.49 -0.257 -1.79 0
13 1.2716 1.473 1.218 1.313 1.1533 1.607 1.779 1.829 1.05 0.871 0.9981 1.257 2.6142 0
14 1.3231 1.688 1.242 1.446 0.9574 3.255 2.167 2.185 0.952 0.646 -2.136 -0.609 -0.044 -1.09 0
15 1.2998 1.672 1.404 1.7954 1.4041 4.154 1.965 2.005 0.997 0.602 -0.748 -0.498 -0.123 -0.96 -0.28 0
16 1.1751 1.349 1.069 1.1274 0.9759 1.273 1.65 1.718 0.976 0.862 0.872 0.98 1.4428 0.396 0.858 0.778 0

Table 3. Computed terrestrial azimuths [in degrees] observable along sight lines between localities.

Locality 1a 1b 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16
1a 0
1b 40.87 0
2 -3.94 -2.959 0
3 -0.504 0.019 16.09 0
4 -17.71 -16.24 -32.93 -40.17 0
5 -25.67 -24.03 -40.21 -44.19 -49.91 0
6 -48.01 -48.63 -26.07 -24.88 -6.979 3.623 0
7 -41.29 -43.38 -21.32 -20.77 -5.164 3.944 5.947 0
48.58 37.29
8 5 48.84 40.44 9 38.25 40.35 48.76 47.37 0
24.20 11.22 20.04
9 8 28.11 13.98 5 8 25.22 46.98 50.81 -32.8 0
10 -34.43 -32.9 -44.48 -45.93 -47.41 -45.13 -18.2 -16.7 -42.8 -31.88 0
11 -40.13 -39.1 -45.85 -46.58 -47.66 -47.1 -32 -30 -44.3 -37.53 -47.53 0
12 -38.72 -37.75 -44.62 -45.62 -46.87 -46.23 -30.8 -29 -43.3 -36.4 -44.68 -19.26 0
13 -35.78 -34.98 -40.94 -42.1 -42.54 -41.19 -28.8 -27.4 -40.8 -34.13 -37.18 -20.37 -20.79 0
14 -31.8 -30.29 -42.71 -44.82 -47.15 -44.98 -14.7 -13.7 -41.6 -29.83 31.405 48.01 4 39.56 0
15 -19.75 -18.47 -31.02 -36.11 -27.31 26.11 0.533 -0.26 -36.8 -21.12 43.901 48.06 48.28 44.21 46.21 0
16 -42.04 -41.46 -45.23 -45.75 -46.39 -46.04 -38.4 -37.1 -44.3 -40.38 -45.6 -44.5 -46.03 -47.3 -46.3 -47.2 0

Table 4. Computed celestial declinations [in degrees] observable along sight lines between localities. Potentially significant lunar and
solar sight lines have been indicated in boldface and italics, respectively, at declinations of 0, ±5, ±18.5, ±23.5 and ±28.5, within ±1.5

Locality 1a 1b 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16
1a 0
1b 40.87 0
2 -47.24 -46.59 0
3 -47.98 -47.32 -44.94 0
4 -41.70 -41.95 -28.98 -18.65 0
5 -36.77 -37.44 -21.98 -14.79 -7.89 0
6 11.00 6.81 37.01 38.02 46.13 46.73 0
7 22.18 18.92 40.23 40.74 46.38 46.57 45.48 0
8 -2.95 -5.81 20.93 25.50 23.50 21.35 -6.21 -11.18 0
9 40.37 39.14 45.20 46.54 41.30 37.95 15.93 8.59 31.33 0
10 -27.11 -28.20 -11.78 -7.04 0.77 6.12 -39.78 -40.74 -16.34 -31.06 0
11 -20.31 -21.24 -9.60 -6.79 -3.01 -1.91 -28.97 -30.96 -13.80 -24.79 -6.43 0
12 -22.94 -23.74 -13.67 -11.05 -8.80 -8.98 -30.99 -32.59 -16.22 -26.58 -15.95 -44.81 0
13 -25.96 -26.56 -19.06 -16.93 -16.52 -17.81 -32.54 -33.71 -19.63 -28.53 -24.73 -40.02 -37.87 0
14 -30.29 -31.22 -16.02 -11.02 -5.17 -3.06 -42.20 -42.73 -18.52 -33.27 -32.68 1.49 11.09 21.38 0
15 -40.38 -40.70 -30.94 -24.64 -34.43 -36.18 -46.71 -46.64 -25.16 -40.41 -15.99 -3.09 3.94 13.80 -11.49 0
16 -17.34 -17.94 -11.14 -9.57 -8.13 -8.15 -21.93 -23.48 -13.54 -20.64 -10.82 -13.13 -7.48 7.82 -8.99 -5.69 0